Monday, 25 February 2013

Furnishing Fabrics, more than just curtains and cushions.

When it comes to using fabric I'm mainly a dressmaker, well actually a waistcoat maker. However I love finding new uses for fabrics and the skills I've picked up working in the world of textiles. I have done some furnishing projects, such as lining curtains and making cushions and even though I may have nothing in particular in mind I will grab some furnishing fabric if it's going in the sale. Often this thicker durable fabric will get turned into a stylish jacket like this one I wore to the Forbidden City in China.  This said a good stock of fabric can really be handy if you suddenly find yourself with a problem to solve.

I have been trying to redecorate my sewing room without spending too much cash. A friend donated a pair of bookcases which were solid, however the backs of them were damaged.  At first I thought I'd have to have them without the backs, which is highly  annoying as I  was planning on putting sewing bits and bobs on them, and could just imagine them getting lost or damaged as they fell behind the shelves.  Another options would be having ugly mis-matched bookcases.  The walls of my room looked very distinguished in their ox-blood red and I didn't want to spoil the over all Victorian abeyance they had given my room with tacky looking bookcases. It was then that I had an idea.
I patched up the bookcases as best as I could with Duct tape. Duct tape is like the Force from StarWars, it has a light side, a dark side and it holds the universe together. I then removed the panel from the book case and rummaged through my stock of furnishing fabric which I picked up in the sale last year. I then cut out a rectangle of fabric to fit the panel, leaving 1 cm around for seam allowance and then staple-gunned it to the panel.

All the was left to do was to use panel pins to reattach the back of the book case, and then add the shelves.

  I then repeated this with the second book case (in this case I had to use some hardboard for the back as the original back was too damaged). I also cut out a corner of the book case so it would fit into my room's support post.
And so there we have it. Furnishing fabrics used for furnishing, just in a different way than most people use them. This fabric was bought in a sale at a very reduced price. I stored it away with my other fabrics sure that I'd find a use for it one day, and I was very glad I did so. We don't need to be constrained by what we THINK a fabric should be used for. You can use a fabric for a wall hanging, or to pad a shelf, line draws or the inside of a cupboard, in fact anywhere that you just want to add a touch of luxury.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A tutu for your vase

Many people suddenly find themselves with more flowers than normal this time of year. I always struggle with getting flowers because I never have any vases handy. I normally end up using a jam jar or pasta jar, which can spoil the look of a gift of flowers. I saw a florist display flowers in a jar surrounded by organza and so I thought I would have a go at making one of these myself.

You will need
1 metre of Organza
Sewing Needle
Thread Snips

The vase cover is effectively a tube of Organza. I cut the organza to a 1 metre by 1 metre square. I decided to use either a flat fell seam or French seam. Both start by pinning the fabric WRONG sides together. Sew these sides together.

 Press the seams to one side.

Now fold the fabric inside out and pin along the seam again, this time RIGHT sides together. This traps the raw seam into a little tunnel of fabric.

You should now have the seam like this, where the raw edge is kept hidden within the french seam. You can then press this seam flat and sew it down, making it a flat fell seam
  You can then press this seam flat and sew it down, making it a flat fell seam.

 Hem the remaining edges. This is simple a case of folding the fabric up by about 1 cm, and then folding it up again by 1 cm, leaving the raw edges trapped within the hem.

Now fold the tube half within itself, so at one end you have a fold and at the other end of the tube you have both hems. place an elastic band around this tube and slide it over your jar or vase.

I'm no great flower arranger, but I think this method can help not only turn a jar into an attractive vase but also help you tie together your floral display with your rooms decor.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Knitting clothes for little ones.

Hi it’s the COO of the company taking her turn on the blogs.

Choosing your baby’s knitting pattern

The first thing to note that unlike an adult’s knitting pattern babies and children are worked out by age (or for premature by weight).
For this blog I have chosen a new born boy’s sweater on the basis that one of the team at Colchester has just become a grandmother to a boy.
When deciding on a size it is a good idea to consider how fast you can knit as some pattern sizes can be at little as 3 months apart. I have chosen a Rico pattern to go with the baby Basics DK wool as a very good alternative to Sirdar. Rico patterns will show you a difficulty level to help you decide whether it is suitable for your skills.

Colours are always tricky to settle on if you do not know the sex of a child waiting to be born so most knitters use white, cream, yellow or green as neutral shades. Also it is worth noting that acrylic wools should be considered for the very young as wool fibres can affect their lungs.

Materials used

Just some of our beautiful shades
Rico Baby Classic DK wool: 2 balls petrol (shade 010),
 1 ball green (shade 028) & 1 ball pale blue (shade 023).
 1pr 3.25mm knitting needles
 1 pr 4mm knitting needles,
 wool needle (sewing) for making up
 and  scissors

Cast on. This Rico pattern suggests the thumb method of the cast on, which personally I find the easiest. A tip for this is to allow approximately 25cm (10”) for 15 stitches to be cast on and then add another 10cm (4”) to allow a tail. You need a little excess hanging after the cast on otherwise you may find the first stitch will not hold.

Cable patterns can be a lot simpler than you may be aware as you are still only using the 2 stitches in knitting (Knit or Purl). This pattern calls for a cable row once every 8 rows and it is using the knit stitch only.

When doing cable patterns I use a pad to write down how many rows to the pattern and then mark each row off once completed. This means when you knit the second side of the garment you already know how many rows it will finish on.

If you choose a pattern that requires multiple colours remember to twist the yarns at the back of the work every 4-5 stitches so that the garment is not pulled in making it too small once finished.

Work your way through each piece of the pattern (back, front and sleeves). Before you can knit the neck line you will need to join the right shoulder seam. I normal sew the garment up with the yarn I have used unless it is a very chunky yarn as you do not need to find a matching thread that way. I will often use the tail of the cast on and off as the start of the making up, so it provides a nice finish and less strands to weave into the garment afterwards.
If you have chosen a cardigan remember to purchase that extra button and sew it into the side seam (inside obviously) as not all buttons are always available.

If you would like to see more knitting blogs (or indeed on any particular area of interest within our trade) please drop a line via face book, twitter or our website
Alternatively drop into a branch.
Tina signing off until next time.